There can be no question regarding the grief and pain of this occasion. It is clear in the expressions and manner of the family and friends. It is unmistakable in the faces of parents and sibling, aunts and uncles, cousins and other kin. This man they mourn was murdered not quite a week ago. Andrew’s girlfriend’s ex-husband used a vehicle to crash the garage door while they lay sleeping. Even though his own two children were also asleep in the house, the ex made his way into the adults’ bedroom, where he shot both Andrew and Amanda in the head. He then left the scene and turned himself in a little later to law enforcement authorities.
I don’t know whether or not the man gave any thought at all to the horrible impact his actions would have on his own children, his own parents, his own friends and relatives. The great seductive power of evil is often based on its ability to blind us to its true consequences; we focus on the expected pleasure, whether it is lust or vengeance, to the exclusion of all else. In the heat of passion, we take action that ripples through so many lives, often altering our own with far greater effect than we imagine.
Whatever else he thought, it is apparent that the ex-husband fully intend to murder his ex-wife and her boyfriend. He succeeded, halfway.
Andrew died immediately if not instantly. Amanda did not. After she was sure the shooter had left, she took the children and ran to a neighbor’s house. Bleeding profusely from the wound in her face and almost blinded by the pain, she begged the neighbors to call 911 and told them who had shot her and Andrew. She was rushed to the hospital in Saint Joseph and then transferred to a hospital in Kansas City. At the time, there was serious question about her survival, not to mention possible long-term effects from the shooting.
Miraculously, Amanda recovered sufficiently enough to leave the hospital on Thursday of the following week. Not only did she leave the hospital, she was also able to come to the funeral the next day. Accompanied by both of her daughters and her father, she walked to the front of the sanctuary at New Life Church and stood at Andrew’s casket. With her heart breaking, she said goodbye to the man she loved, the man who loved her and her children. After her silent communion, after she had walked back to the hallway with her father, I introduced myself and spoke with her for just a moment or two.
“We knew right away we were right for each other. We never bickered; we never fought in any way. He was so gentle, so steady, so loving.” Then, she paused, shook her head sadly and spoke the words that cut me to the core, “We were going to grow old together.”
I cannot truly imagine the pain that Amanda and all the others who love Andrew felt at the funeral and still feel. But I do know that I found an immense satisfaction in seeing her there, in knowing that the vicious evil planned against her had fallen short of its intent. I know that she must have been in a dramatic degree of physical pain as well as emotional anguish. But she was there. And sometimes being there is so much more than what seems possible.
It is often in situations that we would gladly avoid that we achieve our greatest moments, our greatest expressions of courage, determination and character. I think this was such a moment and I was privileged to witness it.
I have a new hero; her name is Amanda Simpson.